tv Lectures in History CSPAN November 26, 2016 8:00pm-9:26pm EST
c-span, where history unfolds daily. in 1979, c-span was created as a public service by america's cable television companies and it is brought to you by your cable or satellite provider. on lectures in history, hadley arkes teaches oftory lesson on the laws government. he discusses aristotle, ever have lincoln -- and abraham lincoln. the class debates how moral truth relates to law decided by majority. this class is about and hour and half. -- an hour and a half. hadley arkes: let's do a bit of a recap, because we have people joining us now, and an audience coming in for the first moments of this course when we are still setting the groundwork. remember, this course with people joining us this moment,
it is called political obligations. it takes its title from the defining cutting-edge of political life. the defining mark of the political order is the presence of law, the task to make decisions that are binding and everyone that comes in the territory. obligations, obligare, the latin, the same as bind. the defining character of the law is it does bind, it sweeps away personal taste, private choice, overwrite private beliefs to enforce a uniform rule. unless we happen to see the root of exercise of power, establishes its own justification. givencreatures have understanding, inclined by how do you justify the state of
affairs? some people with the authority of office can impose their judgment, the force of law, on everyone else. we begin with the best place to begin, the study of politics with aristotle. policyle says that the is of that class of things that exists by nature. rocks, but from what nature? the nature that contains newer things along with things that are [indiscernible] so aristotle says humans alone in the animal kingdom can do more to indicate pleasure and pain but also give reason. good or bad? right or wrong, just or unjust. the law is one kind of creature.
from what part of that nature? reason over to give matters of right and wrong, there is only one kind of creature who understands what it means to bear a commitment or may runon even if it counter to their own interests. have to establish connection to the groundwork of moral judgment . we must understand what we mean by moral. he moved to the level of moral judgment, we are moving radically away from the statements of personal feelings, private taste, and we speak about things in a general universal, right or wrong, just or unjust, which is to say good or bad, just or unjust for others as well as ourselves. you think it is wrong?
sometimes this team seems like bloomingdale's on a saturday. if you think it is wrong for parents to torture a child, or one man to hold another as a slave, we say whom does it wrong ? the answer is, it could be wrong for anyone, forever. if we come to the judgment it is wrong for parents to torture their child, the next line is not, we would give people tax .ncentives to stop this if we come to the judgment that is wrong, the logic of moral judgment in joins us to forbid that wrong to whom, to anyone, to everyone and forbid it by the force of law. mean -- it now may mean everything is illegal that we regard as wrong and hold back from pressing policies to the very limit of this logic. the purpose of the law is to
move people to virtue, not to suddenly, but gradually. the first principle, that practical judgment, the good is that which we are to obliged to do, the wrong which we are obliged to refrain from doing, punished when people do it. we stop using language of like and dislike, start using language of right and wrong, because someone may rightly be punished for what he is doing. we look at lincoln in the cooper slavery were if right, if it were right, then all laws and constitutions against it would be wrong. all words against it would be wrong. if i conceded the slave was right, i conceded the right this -- rightness to screen out
abolitionist literature if slavery were right, and all the rest would be wrong. more adjustment works in this way -- moral judgment works in this way. the things we regard as wrongful, that leads us free by direction to make our choices. that is the way of things. the polus law springs from a nature that is distinctly human. human beings may be the worst of animals, because of the powers of cultivation and craft, they may bring on a force not straight by any moral efficiency. anyone outside of the law, anyone outside could be above the law and underneath the law. it does not require the teaching or strength of the law, or it could be any the law that he has
offered the prospects of that kind of treat -- that kind of teaching that the law may offer. he may deem them either a beast or a god. now, putting every thing together, let's see how the pieces fall to place with a quick review. aristotle tells us human beings alone are destined by nature for political ruling. if a life of politics must spring from that nature, what is ? stinct from human beings is it capacity for moral judgment, reasons over matters of right and wrong. he might say the logic of moral judgment virtually entails what is necessary, the logic of law. when you come to the judgment again, torturing children, the sweet of that recognition --
andp of that recognition universally for bid it with a force of law. with that, i think the pieces will fall into place. the connection to moral judgment and the character and supplies the substance of political life. you ready to go on? i want you with me every second of the way. i want to be sure you are with me. here, shee doing doesn't cough without consequences, she coughs in a certain mode. all right. and showhat next step the same set of understanding, to put in place the groundwork in politics, the next steps that move with them, to the american
founding, are the conclusions drawn by the american founders and that government by the consent of the governed is the only legitimate form of government over human beings. [coughing] candice hooper: lindsay -- hadley arkes: lindsay, you might want to go to the back. >> i'm sorry. hadley arkes: the exercise over others called out the justification. it is one of those things that can be grasped as known and true in itself, only for those who seem to be constituted the part where we given understanding for look for a reason. even the youngster, the child was beaten up seems to understand the success of some people in beating him up does
not have the rightness of beating him up. there is that critical point that will separate him from justice holmes as we will see later. there is things it has to be justified, but nowhere me with more eloquence and force then by the opening section with the contract. he said strength is a physical attribute, and i fail to see how any moral sanctions can attach to his defense. strength is necessary, not of will. it is the result of a dictator of prudence. how can it become [indiscernible] rightit that might makes is to reverse the process of effect in court. a mighty man who defeats his rival becomes the heir to his right. to establish i was right in
defeating him. disobeyon as we can with impunity, disobedience becomes legitimate. the mighty is always right, it remains for us to become possessed of might. but then he asks, what validity can there be in a right that changes ends -- hands as soon as power changes hands? wood, withnd of the tohief that forces his gun hand over my purse or wallet, if i can manage to take it from him, is it my duty to hand it over? his pistol is a symbol of power. it must be valid then that might does not incur right, no man is under any obligation to obey anything but the legitimate
powers of the state. what is the point of the mere success of some people in seizing and holding power is not itself the moral justification for the exercise of power. power is convert itself into authority with legitimate claim to rule here. we can ask, what is presupposing? it may not occur to all creatures, but it does seem to rise only for those things that medicine called morally those beings who took reasons over matters right and wrong. why do you justify this? or ruling over me? that gives us a sense of where we begin, where this case for governed by consent or natural equality begins. it begins with the founding,
with any quality that exists in nature -- with any quality that ality that exists in nature. it went this way. no man is by nature the ruler of iser men in the way that god by nature the ruler of men, and men are by nature the ruler of forces -- horses and cows. that is, therefore you find in the world a state of affairs which some men are in the position of ruling over others, that state of affairs could not have a reason from nature -- a reason -- arisen from nature. it came from convention, arrangement, consent. here is what it sounded like with john locke. , commanding all the workmanship of one wise maker and being furnished with like
faculties, showing all one community of nature but cannot be supposed any such subordination among gods that they authorize us to destroy one forher as if we were made one another's uses that the inferior ranks of creatures are made for ours. and then for so said it this way -- verso said it this way. no man has natural governing over another, might can produce no right, the only foundation left for human society is agreement. hence the book of the american founders, the only just success of the declaration of independence. it must arise from the consent of the governed. massachusetts,
declared in a resolution in may, 1776 that the only form of government which we wish to see establish is a republic -- see established is a republic, that we could never be subjected to any other king then he being possessed of infinite rectitude is allowing with infinite power. james wilson of philadelphia not, supreme power would deeply justify him who is supreme. but for the rest of us creatures, it is government by consent. backgrounda jewish [speaking hebrew] what does the melach mean? mr. shapiro. >> king. hadley arkes: we recognize king
as a god over others. no man was by nature in rule of other men. rulers by nature of horses and cows, and jefferson will later say in a letter, anyone who denies that, anyone who denies that has to assume the mass of mankind were born with several [indiscernible] and a privileged few were born with spurs on. most were like alamos in distinction to others. and then for scores and two years later -- four score and two years later, stephen douglas says in debate with lincoln, the country is made on a white basis for white people. if it comes down to dispute between a white man and a black
on the sidecisively of the white man. but if it ever comes down to it, he says, to dispute three the black man and the crocodile, i am for the black man. and lincoln, who did not have the advantage of analogy, turns to the audience and says, what douglas is telling you is that the black man is to the white man as the crocodile is to the black man, and the only way he can make the case for removing from black people the rights given to them by nature is by assimilating black people to the things that are subhuman. so the question was raised, what the founders set in the declaration, all men, did they in fact mean all men? douglas said no, they meant all white men. all white men are equal to all
white people in britain, so it is like claiming a natural right to be british. he said, which would make a fine argument in a gilbert and sullivan opera, but would not make sense of what lincoln was saying. lincoln said, let's read it douglas' way. all white people here are equal to all white people in britain, the french, germans and catholics who came later, they are all going to go with douglas' inferior races. what linkedin is doing persistently in his argument is trying to -- in his rhetorical strategy is to draw us back to the original [indiscernible] the argument is whether those rights in the declaration, are they natural?
are they grounded in something enduring in nature that will separate human beings from animals, or with we expect to see the same rights held in every other place, whether talking about asia, africa, europe, whether it is wrong for human beings to rule black people as human people rule dogs and forces, as in the fourth -- horses as in the fourth century -- that is the argument at work here. lincoln is trying to draw back to the original sense of men and animals. justice is this. inasmuch as you don't object to thebring my hog grounds, i should object when you bring your slave. all of it would make sense if there is no difference between a hog and a man.
says, in 1820, congressman from the south -- congressmen from the south, you have it in your book, in 1820, congressmen from the south joined congressmen in the north by making the african slave trade a form of piracy, and then punish for death. what is the problem? just catching wild pigs from the coast of africa and seeing who would buy them. he never thought of paying people for selling and catching wild buffalo, wild horses, wild bears. then he says there are in the united states in addition to what we have now some 433,000 free black people. at $500 per head, they are worth an amount of $200 million, but how come, he says, this vast
amount of property should be running about without their owners? you don't see free horses running about, cattle? these free people are the descendents of slaves, or they had been slaves themselves, were now descended, operating on their white owners, inducing them the vast pecuniary sacrifice to limit eight -- to liberate them. no mistaking it. it is your sense of justice and human sympathy telling you that the poor negro has some natural right to himself, but those who deny it and make the merchandise kicking contempt and depth -- depth. why would you ask us to deny the and demand the slave
him be the equal of the hawk? why would you ask him to do what you will not do your self. why would you ask us to do what you would not do for nothing, -- 200 million of dollars $200 million did not induce you to this? look at what he was doing, returning to that original imagery, what separated humans from other animals by the same bound, and there are some. the question was, whether those rights from something truly in nature, or if they were simply creatures of what we call positive law. not positive as opposed to negative, but positive in the enacted.positive, on the tradition of that law, there is always a place, must have a place for what we call
the positive law. but it alerts us to the fact that behind any positive law could be a deeper principle we might call natural law that we understand that would tell us why we want to have a lot of there in the first place. think about signs on the highway , 35, 55 -- those numbers have no significance in themselves, but behind those numbers is the principle that will tell us why we could be wanted in interfering with the freedom of people to drive that hazards even to their own. we have to make a transition from the underlying principle to some regulation that would translate into terms that there are circumstances or terrain or forests. 75 miles per hour on the open highway, 35 on this winding
road. you understand what is going on there. but we also have this awareness. i went over this a bit i think on the first day. often we are of rights that arise [indiscernible] the example i offered the other ay was, somebody gets off plane from london, and in new york. we assume we don't have to look at the passport and consider citizenship would protect him from a lawless assault on the street. we also understand the same man cannot take himself over that day to apply and enroll in the city of university of new york. the people of new york make this available out of their generosity, give money that they make available through their generosity to other citizens of new york. we also have understanding of rights that seem to arise for
human beings wherever they are, to protect him from a lawless assault, as opposed to rights that are positive, enacted in particular enclaves that make him under generosity or the sufferance of the local population. the right to use the bus at amherst college. you have got to understand what engaged between lincoln and douglas is douglas thought they principles,l natural rights. we created these because they came out of culture. we have created them. to be subjected to slavery, he suffered from the right to use squash courts at amherst. the point is that douglas wanted
to deposit all of our rights under that class of positive rights, only because they have been set down and could be withdrawn with the will or judgment of people in power, to extend and remove those rights. but lincoln understood the case and principle against slavery, the favor of government by consent, was the saying in all places. the case against slavery was the same as the case for government by consent. the rule of a person without his consent was classic the denial -- classic denial of government. so lincoln said the doctrine of self-government is right, absolutely and eternally right and separate him from the barack obama here. obama rejects this declaration, expressed a truth let alone what lincoln called an absolute truth . the doctrine of the right is absolutely eternal, but whether
black peopleto depends on whether the negro is a person or a man. if you not a man, in that case, he who is a man may in the matter of self-government do with him as he pleases. but if he is a man, is it not to that extent of total destruction of self-government to say that --to shall not government too shall not govern himself? are they what you regard as human beings, or are they on the chain of beasts between us and something else? and lincoln offered a fragment here that i have used in every term as a classic illustration of the natural law argument. it was a fragment he wrote and we pick it up on page 36 of
price of the house divided. i say it in my own book. a conversations with the owner of a slave, put into question, why are you making a slave of a black man? anyone who hears it grasps at once. with natural said law we know through reasoning that it is accessible to human beings, as human beings, and in my experience, anyone who hears lincoln's fragment understands it at once and understanding it they grasp the sense of natural law. he said, why is that black man any less of a human being? is he less intelligent than you? next morehe intelligent person may in life you -- in slave you.
if a person comes along with a collection whiter than you, they may enslave you -- complexion lighter than you may enslave you. you could not disqualify anything. people that to nowhere in the chain of argument is there an appeal to faith, a revelation. it is an argument that can be understood across religious division, catholics, baptists, atheists. they used to say in chicago, that one is gone now. genius inhave to be a other words to understand this, and you don't need a college education. it is accessible to human beings as human beings, and later using the same argument about the unborn child. why is that unborn child in the womb less of a human being?
he doesn't speak yet. doesn't have arms or legs. other people lose arms and legs in the course of their lives. they are not losing anything necessary to their standing of human beings to perceive -- receive protection of the law. if it does not apply to the child in the womb, it would not apply to many children walking around. you don't have to be catholic to understand that argument. the position of the church is this is a matter of natural law, the kind of principled reasoning that lincoln uses. say, i don't want to impose my believes on people, that is not the argument of the church. it is a dis-construction of the argument. , ithe same way, lincoln said
look at this analysis, his pitch was this will not be confined to black people. there is nothing you could cite to justify the enslavement of black people which would not apply to many white as well, and many people were already making the extension. why shouldn't this apply to whites who are not too bright, engaged in manual labor? point of the famous house divided speech in june 1858. a country that can start enslaving black people can start removing the franchise of the vote from certain classes of whites until the democratic andine becomes fainter authoritarian features become more pronounced. one historian recalled being in charleston and seeing the system
of slavery made explicit in the city and in how people were .iving outside plantations curfews, sentinels. he saw more of the face of purity in one night in charleston then he did in naples in a week -- more of the face of tyranny in trials down than he did in naples in a week. indifferent,ecome they are putting in place the grounds of their own enslavement and bases to be democratic people -- and bases to be -- and they cease to be a democratic people. i think he is being quite literal. you think of people going into a voting booth in germany in 1932 to vote for hiller. -- hitler. they are marking a ballot.
they look like people engaging in what we recognize as the behavior of people in an election. we recognize people getting up for a seventh-inning stretch as people at a ballgame. but let's say they are going into that election ready to remove the vote, the natural rights, from the people around them. they no longer respect the equal rights of other human beings to the same vote and the same protection of the law. and i think you have his point. they are going through all the motions. they are behaving in the way people behave, but in a certain critical way, they have seized to have a soul of the democratic people. that was the whole point of the house divided speech. what is at issue is whether we are going to make ourselves officially in different to the enslavement of some of our people.
if so, we cannot find a limiting principle. it is going to have to go one way or the other and become national in scope. we are going to sleep in illinois as a free country, a free state, and we will wake up in illinois as a slave state. i think he had it quite right as to what was in the works. or rather, where the dynamic of that argument was indeed moving, as we will see later. in that crisis over secession, people moving out, you find the , and ites really joined was no accident the same people who sought to justify the enslavement of other men would insist at the same time, as a matter of high principle, their freedom not to respect the
outcome of a free election. was, ifashington's line we establish the right of people to govern itself, if the laws made by that people need not be obeyed. to deny that was to deny the right of people to govern themselves and strike at the principal of all men being created equal. the only room -- that is being embodied now by the same people who reject the principle of all men are created equal. in septemberment 1862 when lincoln was visited by a delegation from chicago, saying, why don't you make slavery the immediate grounds -- ending of slavery the immediate grounds for the fighting of the war?
it is a tricky question. lincoln has to explain to them, you realize there are border states -- missouri, kentucky, delaware -- that will not fight to end slavery. they will fight to end the secession to preserve the union. at a certain point, they will strike a slavery to shorten the war, but if i make slavery the immediate grounds for the war, i might as well be severing the country. , thel lose the connections rail connections that link washington to the northeast, i will lose kentucky, the country is split into. -- split in two. they said, we have a principle at stake, the question of your obligation to obey the results of a free election. he said, that runs as deep as anything. the historian remarks on that line, people don't realize that
, the rebellion against the democratic elected , the rebellion against the free government, and the wrong of slavery are in principle the same. ask yourself this way. is not claiming to get its way i persuading everybody else in a free support our policy, or in the other case, seeking the support among their fellow toizens in other states break up the union, because other people in other states have a stake in this matter. they're not seeking to get their way in that way. they're not seeking to get their way through an election.
what is the basis on which they are seeking to get their way? have?o we if i am not seeking to gain my way by persuading other people and seeking their consent, how am i doing it? >> [inaudible] hadley arkes: absolutely, application of force. might makes right. it is the absolute rejection of any claim that what i'm doing has to be justified. lincoln faced this in the first inaugural. i want to hand some of these passages to you. he turned to the inaugural into kind of a civic/and -- kind of a civics lesson. four three -- page
four. if he said, is it really true that rights plainly written have been denied? he argues, no, it is not. skipping down further in that paragraph, no organic law can be framed with a provision specifically applicable to every pressure which may occur in practical administration. orforesight can anticipate any document of reasonable length contain express provisions for all possible questions. shelf fugitives from labor be surrendered by a national state of authority? that is a question of fugitive slaves.
the constitution does not expressly say. may congress prohibit slavery in the territories? the constitution does not expressly say. must congress protect the slavery in the territories? constitution does not say. and the critical point, for , all ofs of this kind our constitutional controversy in the divide among majorities in minorities, now we get to the crux. if the minority will not , oriesce, the majority must the government must cease. there is no other alternative. continuing to govern is acquiescence on one side or the other. if the minority in such a case will sustain rather than acquiesce, they make a president which will divide and ruin them.
will secede from them whenever a majority refuses to be controlled by such a minority. they say look, people are already being tutored in doing this. -- party scene west virginia we have already seen west virginia. simply assume that the interest of the is seceding states are all convergent and never diverge? what if a state decides to secede from the secession? stayif a county decides to with them and secede from the secession to the secession? what if a town within the county decides to secede from the secession from the secession from the secession? finally, if a person within the town secedes from the secession to the secession to be secession to be secession to the secession
, the then he says, plainly central idea of secession is the essence of anarchy. anarchy, that meaning without authority, without the ability to make any commitments that are binding. this is the part i want you to unlock with me. it is a civics lecture being taught in this document. bymajority held in restraint constitutional checks and limitations and always changing easily with the changes of popular opinion is the only true sovereign of a free people. that is, the right of the ule, the majority
gets the authority to rule from the deeper principle that all men are great equal, government comes from the consent of the government, it is a form of rule with moral, legal restraints. it speaks to the very nature of a moral agent. remember lincoln's debate with douglas, you cannot coherently complain a right to do a wrong. -- you have a person, a moral agent, you can reason about things that are right or wrong. if that is the case, he too may realize he does not have the right to do wrong. he does not have the right to rape or murder just because he is free. what a moral agent, person, can come to understand is that a free agent in the sovereign control of myself, i don't have the right to do anything. i too have to work within a set of moral and legal restraints,
as plato would say. that is a man under self-control. he has a constitutional ruler within himself. we asked the old question, is that kind of man weaker because he is under self-control, or is he stronger because he is not going to limit his acts and his to the things legitimate for him to do? the majority under restraint is the only legitimate, true sovereign of the free people. whoever rejects it does of necessity fly to anarchy or despotism. impossible. unanimity can mean a couple of things. it can mean -- we passed a civil rights law barring racial dissemination and private businesses, but it applies only to people who accepted -- except
it. unanimity. or what if you say, we require unanimity before we can have any law, so 99% of the public except as law and 1% reject it, we can have the law. what is the problem with that one? >> [inaudible] what are we: backing into if we say the 1% may rule the 99%? >> [inaudible] hadley arkes: you back into the rule of the minority as a permanent arrangement, which is wholly inadmissible. on what grounds is it inadmissible? let's take it down to the rudiments. we form a division, we take the votes. i got a large file and a small pile.
-- large pile and a small pile. what is the grounds of a signing authority to the larger pile and not the small pile? to put it another way, why wouldn't we let the smaller pile when -- win? was, philosophy is not available to the multitude, it is always a minority with fine sensibilities, why won't you pick the minority as the decisive vote? rule.ority hadley arkes: why? >> it is a fundamental of american democracy. hadley arkes: what makes it a fundamental? this is the only operational form of government. if we mean government by consent of the governed, we have to establish what the consent is, what the people choose. now we have to decide, what is the operational form?
they majority within constitutional restraints, majority that understands it cannot decide everything. still, what is the ground on which i say the rule of the minority is inadmissible in principle? what would it be? >> [inaudible] you would end up with a complete extreme, there would be one person determining the will of everyone else. said -- on what grounds is a wholly inadmissible? a single person should not have the jurisdiction to determine -- hadley arkes: why is that? >> because there are constraints
of other people -- he might have his own beliefs. hadley arkes: would it matter if we knew who the single person was? if churchill or thomas moore it takes ahe room, full and peculiar description. a judgment in defense of somebody obviously knows far more. we are calling for winston. it is may 1940, we are calling for winston. we are going to be very dependent on what winston does, we trust his judgment. but the point is we don't know who is in the pile. not knowing where the sensibilities are disturbing it, where the wisdom is distributed, then what is the ground on which we say no, the role of the minority is wholly admissible?
i think some people are going to go for this. >> [inaudible] hadley arkes: you are trying to explain first why, given the differences between majority and minority, the role of the minority is wholly admissible, on what grounds is it inadmissible? if you are assuming the role of majority is right. point is on what basis did we say that the role of the minority is wholly inadmissible? >> [inaudible] those who would be in the minority who disagree with the laws andreating better
would be able to create a statute of their own. hadley arkes: you have to reach a moment where someone is going to have to decide. now you pick it up at this point. i've got a large island a small pile. you -- a large pile and a small pile. who is going to pick it up? no one in that smile pile has [inaudible] hadley arkes: you don't know. not knowing who is who. when he says wholly admissible -- wholly inadmissible, could it --simply on the premise of the principle is operating in considering the ultimate grounds in question. do the completion for me.
what are the alternatives? if we are serious about government by the consent of the governed, we have decided some way of making that governance operational. it is the role of majority, not minority, as a permanent arrangement. the majority should change usually with some -- with switches in public opinion, and with constitutional restraints. that must flys either to anarchy or despotism in some form. let's consider it. if i reject the notion that i can be bound by a majority operating under constitutional restraint, what are the grounds in which i would reject that notion that i can be bound? >> [inaudible]
hadley arkes: you are -- unconstitutional. who is going to make the decision about what is constitutional? you yourself, or is there going to be a process to way that question -- to weigh that question? i think i mentioned the first day, james wilson said that if the law in america would be different to the law in britain, the law in britain begins with the notion of a sovereign issuing commands. the law and america will begin with the recognition that you can have an unjust law. something can be passed with all the trappings of legality and
still be wanting the substance of lawfulness. that is built-in from the very beginning. lincoln is that this primary level, saying if you deny that you can be bound, why say a system is working under constitutional restraints? if you think you have a constitutional issue, one kosher butcher establishment in --oklyn 1936 we have arranged a system in which one private person can go the farm and demand to know ground of law on which he is being committed and whether that law comports with the fundamental law -- it is already contrived that way. and now somebody says, i don't have to obey things like that. it has already been arranged.
position to claim that , i cannot be committed, even to a system of government by consent, which works with the consent of the governed and operates under constitutional restraints, and i say, i cannot be committed. he says there are two ways in which you may not be committed. what may be the way? >> [inaudible] we are not obliged to follow the law, we are either above it as a god or below it as a subhuman. there are only two choices, and in all situations, man must be obliged to follow the law. hadley arkes: you screwed up the last class by jumping ahead to the conclusion. let me explain mr. greenfield's budding combination of the culmination of this
session. if i say i cannot be committed, then there is no ground on which anyone can be committed. there are no true propositions that can claim our respect, like people may not be held responsible for acts [indiscernible] two contradictory propositions both cannot be true. if there are either no propositions out there that cannot claim my respect -- it could be one, either there is nothing binding on me because i acknowledge no ground of principle that could ever elicit my respect and obedience. any thing ofrstand that sort. or it could be i'm above the laws made by others.
say, i am ato would creature not made like other people. say, lincoln would later people are part of the tribe of the eagle. they soar above others. they cannot be held to the same kinds of laws that bind others. you are either the tribe of the eagle, above the law, or you are beneath the law. you cannot be committed because you cannot understand the grounds on which anyone can be rightfully committed. in other words, anyone who , anarchy or despotism in some form is all that is left. anarchy, there is no ground for commitment for creatures who cannot understand the ground of commitment. or despotism, somebody is above the laws made for people. beneath the law
or above it. you are what? a [inaudible] or a god. is, thiskes: my point is lincoln making his way to his own reflection, to the first pages of aristotle. is a remarkable thing, when you see lincoln through his own reflection. you see lincoln moving along the same paths that thomas aquinas -- and he is not tutored in this -- you just see a mind calibrated in a different way. that is part of what makes this so moving. questions?
for the next session, we moved to a test of this. let me give you another preparation in a different way. way. put it this that the adoption of self-government was absolutely and eternally right. the only rightful form of government, as jefferson said. when he said things like that, there is no whiff of a contingent on the problematic. he was articulating what he thought was a necessary truth, something that would be a truth grounded in nature.
, disclosing rights that were grounded in the same nature, rights that would be the same in all places where nature remains the same. a strong opinion is the dominant force on this campus, quite at odds with the notion of natural rights. simply thehts were analogy of patriarchal as him , the roletriarchalism of might males, nature is malleable, it can be socially constructed according to the local culture. that opinion, which is from the orthodox, and the campus, is utterly at odds with the argument of understanding lincoln and the american founders and the force of law that fed the anti-slavery movement and establish the american regime. that is very much what is at issue with us today and what is at stake here. if it is true that what he says,
at the heart of the matter is an absolute truth, a moral truth, a truth about the rightful or wrong for way for human beings to be governed, and absolute truth that will hold at all times and places, that is the central question that has to be a mop in this course. -- that has to be unlocked in this course. what are the properties of a necessary moral truth? how willwe conform -- we confirm and test that with our best skeptical reflexes and see what exactly is the argument be made there? proposition, as lincoln called it -- fourscore and seven years ago, this country began with a proposition of human quality -- as a moral truth that holds in all places.
i mentioned last time that is common among historians. there are no truths of that kind. we know now that all truths are really relative to the time and place in which they are held, except of course for the truth of historical relativism. that is supposed to be true at all places and times. , 14 years ago, when i was visiting at princeton, i was waiting at staples to check something out. i had a conversation with a girl who was a radford student. what is your field? american 19 century. i said, already we are at odds. she said, what is the problem? i said, i think lincoln had it right when he said of jefferson and the declaration that jefferson had articulated a proposition -- all men are created equal -- jefferson had
proclaimed an abstract truth applicable to all men and all times. and she said, he thought it was true at the time. he believed it. we don't believe it now. i'm telling you, this is exactly what is at issue now. our time, ande of it will never cease to be the issue of our time. it is never out of season for any of us. dan robinson used to say, the purpose is that we have people who cannot give reasons for their action or find a principled ground for their motivations. there is a difference between feelings of affection, which may depend on in articulable feelings, and respect. with respect, we offer our
reverence for that law of which someone purports to be an example. the purpose of this whole scheme , to try to reflect on these enduring questions, was to put any of us in a condition that any of us at any moment could give an account of that law of which we purport to be examples. what is the principle that justifies our authority over myself and the authority we are exercising in the lives of others? i went on to far with that. and you are questions about what we are doing here today? i was pointing out that when we take the lax move -- when we take the next move in testing the argument with the chapter on ,nti-slavery judges anti-slavery but felt committed
by the positive law to enforce the fugitive slave laws. we have lincoln saying that he did of slave -- saying that there was an obligation to return runaway slaves -- if we did not see that, we could not have a union that refused to endorse slavery put restraints on the expansion of slavery, cut off the slave trade, and sought to keep the public mind with the assumption that slavery was the cause of ultimate extension. he could not have had this unless we did agree to have the fugitive slave clause up. he gives us a very interesting angle on the problem. we are going to take that as one of our first steps into this question of, how do you prove all men are crated equal? which is another way of saying,
how do you prove the existence of necessary moral truths? that is where we are going. >> [inaudible] we either thought -- i thought we had been dealing with empirical laws. --?here some other >> [inaudible] are there moral truths enacted into law? is that at odds with personal interest or a perceived political obligation? have you reconcile that with [inaudible] hadley arkes: talk about abstraction. give me a case.
>> a white southerner in the south in the 1850's who is under the impression that slavery is the method that the seven economy has maintained itself -- that the southern economy has maintained itself. he is convinced itself it is what is good and right. but the absolute all truth is that slavery is wrong. hadley arkes: it is not coming as a surprise to you that people often don't think -- mistakenly -- that [indiscernible] that does not come as a surprise. thatuld be more surprising you find these fragments from people who owned slaves doing things like this. i'm trying to think. i'm trying to recall the book where i found it, i will bring it back next time.
slave owners saying, if slavery were right, i should be willing to apply this to my own family, but i am not. therefore, i have to give them up. next time, i will bring in the declaration of these slaveowners in georgia, 1775. part of the american revolution, they form a resolution to say the slavery among us now is utterly at odds with the principles we are contending for in this american revolution, so we are committing ourselves to the manumission of our own slaves and putting them on safe ground in relation to other people. the reason we have free black people, as lincoln said, is because people in the south freed them. it?s not a surprise, as we have people arguing in our own day for obamacare, over abortion, whether you should compel people morally opposed to
abortion to find these things in their private businesses. numeral questions are always abounding. the question is always before us , are we justified in imposing those obligations? is the policy itself justified? is there some other angle on this? surprise that human beings will disagree over the question of what is good and just. one of the things about a system like this is that we try to fora in which d you can keep contesting the question. inre is one butcher shop brooklyn that managed to bring down the whole national [indiscernible] in the paper yesterday, we had a pipeline in north dakota cleared by the government, cleared by
the american corps of engineers, everybody wants it, good for people suffering under the collapse of the price of gasoline, and yet, an indian tribe has put up resistance. they have the kind of system in which even people, even minorities, may find some leverage in which to get a hearing and forced the government today to give justification to what they are doing. if the whole purpose of this thing is to get government to give justifications for those things, it should be possible for one person, even a person who loses in an election to come either to the clinical carina or court to say, tell me again -- to the clinical arena or court to say, tell me again what the justification is. it is an elaboration of the
scheme. that does not mean it could work out well. we could have everybody colluding in a policy that is quite morally indefensible. i can point to a couple of things in our public policy right now that i think would be. where does that leave us? the question will always be before us, and the question is, when you are enacting these laws, are you simply going to enact that which summons the opinions of most of us? or could we test those opinions and asking people to face a more demanding test for the justification of those policies? .hat sounds very high-minded you see where we are moving with this. we are trying to unlock the public policy, the
anti-slavery judges, why some of the anti-slavery judges thought they had an obligation to respect that resolution of the founding in which they were obliged to respect the fugitive slave laws, even though they had to bite their lips to do it. and it is a question of natural law and positives. as lincoln would say, where there is a natural law argument respecting even a bad law until it can be changed in a matter consistent with the principles of a government by consent. he has got a fair point. ok, gang, any other questions? >> [inaudible] minute.rkes: wait a you.e get a mic to
>> if the north consistently used the argument that slavery was morally indefensible, how did the south come to defend it as a necessary evil? it seems like those two arguments would have been incompatible in the same arena. there arkes: aren't people out here who say abortion is absolutely necessary, and others who say it is morally indefensible? how do we get a state of affairs of that? people may not see the issue in the same way. the question is, is there a way in which we can have a conversation about it? is there a way in which we can find the premises that make the conversation possible? as for example, the fragment of lincoln. if you withdraw the protections of law from that human being, tell us what makes that human being different and removes them from the protection of the law.
in other words, in any of these instances, wouldn't we see the same thing at work -- if people are serious about this -- if they seriously want to engage in a serious conversation, as opposed to saying -- you see this in the argument with same-sex marriage. the very fact that you are making an argument is an indication of bigotry. you should accept our position without reservation, and the fact that you are not shows what is wrong with you. and an -- and engagement is possible. we are not simply exchanging multiples. i'm stating opinions. the question is, can we move from those opinions to a conversation which would enable to ask each other earnestly,
what is the ground on which you think that is a justified position? pointing beyond your own likes and dislikes, the subtle ground that you can expect me to respect. -- ist a comprehensible there some other angle on this, jamie, that i'm not seeing? >> not that i can think of. hadley arkes: david? >> [inaudible] the mic is about to send on you. we acknowledge essentially that sometimes we get it wrong, and when we get it wrong, we have to have a conversation. how do we come to the conclusion of that conversation, when we fully know that we have legislated the correct morality on this position?
i think you can -- -- to us -- it is wrong to assume that if you know the race of a person, i can know that that person will improve or to grade the character of the neighborhood. by anyt be justified policy that creates disabilities or a foundation for disabilities. , i should beaid able to kill this baby, it is the wrong race. understand what the [indiscernible] to the extent that we think --
as i was trying to show you race is that policy on angered in propositions that cannot be undone double without falling into -- that cannot be doubted without falling into contradiction. , give me anand said incoherent right. i have a right to believe i don't exist. we ask, who is the bearer of that right? water doesn't exist? then you come back and say, i have a right to kill myself in my sovereign control of myself because i do believe i don't exist. is that a coherent claim? you is that is an incoherent claim. it performs no plausible ground for anything we would call a right.
you see some of those things at work as people are asserting their right to end their life. to an extent that you could find , andition that is anchored propositions that cannot be denied without falling into contradiction, it is an incoherent right to claim you don't have a right to kill yourself that garnered reason or the right to take the life of anyone else for that reason. to that extent, you have got a firm ground. this does not mean that other people are going to understand it. they have to be explained. what is your prospect now for thosening to other people grounds that are anchoring her judgments. -- your judgments. that is why we do things like this, to get a little more practice.
these judgments that spring from you, do they spring from your likes or dislikes? is there some ground that makes a compelling and you yourself are not saying to your face? is that clear? i had an earlier question. you mentioned several times the phrase consent of the governed and contract theories. i have never read one at [indiscernible] do you have something you could point to that would count as consent of the governed and the american democracy? hadley arkes: apart from the notion of a free election? if somebody who does not vote
says, i have never voted, why should i be under control of these laws? you --arkes: if you might be under control of a family, and you did not elect to be in that family, either. it is a question of by and large, if we are with a notion of the consent of the governed in a population, it is still quite legitimate to say, shouldn't there be some kind of test for people who are going to be exercising that franchise for others, governing their life? knowd we expect people to something about what they are doing, expect them to be literate? we could be very demanding about this. say,certain point, people you should not be voting to put costs on other people if you are not willing to support -- willing to pay taxes to support those policies were self. these are all arguable.
you could cut it any number of ways. we seem to have arrived at a position that no, we will not make somebody's formal education a requirement. some people with more advanced degrees sometimes don't have as much common sense as people who have not been to school. is lincoln andss the speech, where he talked about the black slaves that did not throw in with john brown, and he said, as ignorant as they were, as unlettered as they are, they had the wit to see that the schemes of this crazy white man were not conducive to their well-being. they are not educated people. but they have some sense of what is going to be good for them and maybe good for others. they don't deserve to be annexed
to the purposes of other men without their consent. behind it is some kind of respect for the ordinary person as a functional being. seriousoln had some [indiscernible] we have heard a lot in the past about illegal aliens have right to be citizens. well, they are not citizens now, so any right of theirs must flow from some other source than the fact of their citizenship. one thing you could ask people who are applying for citizenship is, do you respect, do you want to preserve a regime of citizenship? they understand that as part of voting in a democracy, you should not hold yourself free to vote for a knotty -- for a nazi
party or party that would end the free elections and convert everybody from citizens into subjects. you can add those moral ingredients. you understand they are moral choices that is made to be freighted here. they put a serious restrictions on what a free people ought to be free to choose. where douglassage said, after all, god made good and bad and bade us choose. lincoln said, the first time he said it, i thought he was being boastful. he said there is one tree, the fruit of which you may not eat. he said to lincoln, the condition of democratic man was comparable to the condition of man in the garden of eden, he can preserve his freedom only by
understanding he has to -- there are certain kinds of passions and fruits he has to forbid himself. he has to forbid himself the passion of despotism. i say to be a voter and democracy you may have to understand what some people in germany did not. am i going into his voting booth respecting the equal rights of people around me not to be dispossessed of a government election? am i understanding there are certain moral restraints that thereupon what i can choose and casting my vote, that i can't alter and remove a regime of electorates? i can't vote for a party that converts this election into a referendum on democratic government. the question of who should be voting, who has the competence to vote, the maturity. but are there certain serious moral restraints?
you may ask yourself, how many people going into voting booths are aware of those kinds of things already? perhaps not many, so we are taking our chances in this great lottery. line thatefferson's you can give the same question to a man who operates a plow into a professor, and the man with a plow make it right as often as the professor. there was kind of a foolish optimism confirmed by [indiscernible] ordinary folks may have good sense to bring to bear. if we do not have that kind of safe, we could not justify entering the system with all its defects. i may have to leave you with that old line of woody allen, which said, there really is a
moral world, the only question is, how far is it from midtown and how late does it stay open? alright gang. we will come together and do it again. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2016] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] announcer: join us saturday evening at 8:00 p.m. and midnight eastern as we join students in college classrooms to hear lectures from topics ranging from the american revolution to 9/11. lectures in history are also available as podcasts. visit our website, c-span.org/history/podcasts or download them from itunes. hefner, christine former ceo of playboy enterprises, talks about comedian lenny bruce's life and